The sound of rain on the roof when you wake is never a good sign if you commute by bike, but it doesn’t have to spell a completely soggy arrival at the office.
It’s incredibly difficult to stay totally dry, but a few nifty items will help keep the worst of the rain off, helping you to stick to your favourite method of commuting, even when it feels like the clouds are waiting to burst on you at the most inappropriate moments.
#1 Waterproof Jacket
It’s probably quite obvious that you’re going to need a good waterproof jacket to start you off. However, this should be a carefully considered purchase if you don’t want to be buying a new one in a matter of months.
The cycling industry uses two terms – waterproof, and water resistant. The former promises to keep you dry, the latter will allow the first showers to run off the surface, but water will permeate after prolonged exposure or in heavier rain.
The struggle with a fully waterproof jacket is keeping it truly breathable. Brands that manufacture cycling gear specifically, like Endura, Altura and Gore know that this is a must so they work hard to find a balance between protection from both the rain, and from moisture on the inside of the jacket when you sweat. Many will use a sweat wicking inner layer, and quality waterproofs often have un-zippable vents at the armpits which make a big difference to air circulation.
It’s also a smart idea to look for a jacket with watertight pockets, these will keep a phone or other device safe, and high viz features are also a necessity since rain will reduce drivers’ vision.
Popular waterproof jackets include:
If it’s not raining when you leave, but there is chance of rain, a water resistant packable jacket you can roll up and pop into your backpack or pannier is a great safety net, in case the heavens open on your journey. The Castelli Squadra is a great example of a quality packable.
#2 Waterproof Trousers or Trouserguards
There are two options for your bottom half – wearing cycling tights with the expectation of getting wet, and changing when you arrive at work, or wearing your civvies, and pulling waterproof trousers or trouser guards over the top.
Waterproof trousers are best used for shorter journeys or those where you plan not to exert yourself tremendously, as they do tend to get quite hot. If you do go for this option, the Endura Gridlock II Waterproof Trousers offer great protection and have extendable bottoms, so you can ensure you cover the tops of your shoes, as well as zips for easy removal, a belt to ensure a good fit, and reinforced sections on the inside legs to prevent wear from chain abrasion.
If your journey is very short, and you simply want to protect the tops of your thighs and calfs, Rainmates offer some fantastic leg guards which roll up and can be packed away as a wearable belt when it’s not raining.
#3 Neoprene Overshoes and Waterproof Socks
Neoprene is the material used to make wetsuits, so you know these items are designed to be waterproof. As your feet are the unfortunate part of your body closers to the ground, it’s worth looking after them.
If you ride in cycling shoes, Endura make a very popular pair of Waterproof Road Overshoes that are made of neoprene, with a reinforced hem around the sole to protect the delicate fabric from tearing when you place a food on the ground.
Waterproof socks will also make a big difference, and SealSkinz are the market leader who promise to keep your toes dry.
Mudguards fit to your bike to prevent splash from the road from covering your backside, as well as cutting down on the amount of grime that builds up on your components and frame.
Before heading off to buy a pair, take a look at your bike – first. If your steed has eyelets for fixing mudguards, and enough space for clearance between the eyelets and tyre, you can go for full mudguards.
Full mudguards often come in a range of widths, narrow for road bikes, and wider versions for a hybrid – they do usually require tools and perseverance to attach (you can ask your bike shop to do it for you). If you don’t have eyelets, you’ll need to opt for a clip on version, but these still do a great job, and they are easier to fit.
Finally, for a very simple version – you could go for the quaintly named ass-saver, to catch the worst of the road splash.
#5 Backpack/Pannier Cover
Don’t put yourself through the horror of riding to work with your civvies in your backpack or pannier, and then arriving to find rain water has seeped into your pack and your day clothes are wet.
There are a multitude of waterproof covers available, and some panniers come with one already. If yours didn’t, Respro make a very popular waterproof cover which is compatible with a backpack or pannier – and it’s high viz, too, so you get some bonus reassurance.
#6 Don’t leave it wet
Finally – though it can be very tempting to shake off the worst of the water, rid yourself of wet kit, and get on with the day, your commute home will be much more pleasant if you find a friendly radiator for your damp gear. Cycling shoes are notoriously hard to get dry, so do yourself a favour and stuff them with newspaper as soon as you get to work, leaving them somewhere warm such as under s radiator if you can.